Smoked paprika and chipotle add vibrant flavor to a piquant, brick red broth studded with chunks of creamy sweet potato and tender lentils for an ultra-nourishing vegetarian soup topped with all the usual tortilla soup fixings.
There’s been a ton of baking going on in the bojon kitchen lately, which is why I’m extra-excited to share (and eat!) this soup today. It’s full of protein-rich lentils and tender bites of sweet potato, all hanging out in a brick-red broth laced with chipotle, cumin, smoked paprika, and lime. It’s one of those dishes that feels rich and nourishing, but light and clean all at once. It’s a perfect antidote to these cool fall days, and I’m planning to make it during the depths of winter when I’m craving bright colors and flavors.
Speaking of cravings, I have a handful of book events around the Bay Area this winter – many of which will be full of treats from Alternative Baker – and I’d love to see you there! More detailed info and links here.
Another reason for my soup excitement? Because today is Cynthia’s (of Two Red Bowls) virtual babyshower hosted by Alana and Stephanie, and we’re all bringing bowls of yummy goodness to share (but only virtually – sad!) There’s pudding. There’s pot pie. There’s cobbler, cookies, and biscuits. There’s soup, soup, and more soup. It’s an orgy of comfort food, and right now, under a blanket, scarf, sweater, and cat, I couldn’t be more tempted by all of these cozy bowls. (Ok, it’s only 55ºF out in SF – I’m a wimp.)
I’ve been a devoted Two Red Bowls fan from the beginning, swooning over Cynthia’s one-of-a-kind recipes and images. She inspires me every day with her eye for light and texture – I just want to live in her photos forever. She’s one of the kindest souls around, too. I’m so happy for her, B2, and their new addition. Luke, aka B3, is going to be one well-loved (and well-fed) kiddo. Congratulations, #ThreeRedBowls!
In honor of the Three Red Bowls, I made bowls of red soup. I’m a big fan of sopa azteca, posole and brothy tortilla soups – any of those Latin American dishes with spicy, brick-red broth. But it’s nearly impossible to find good vegetarian versions out (the exception being the posole at Gracias Madre, which is delicious.) This soup is an easy way to get that fix.
The broth is spiced and tangy like sopa azteca, with plenty of umami smokiness from chipotle, smoked paprika, and toasted cumin. It’s quick to throw together, super satisfying, and it keeps brilliantly for several days, becoming more and more tasty in the fridge. I concocted it last spring when, craving the chickpea tortilla soup in The Love and Lemons Cookbook but trying to make a dent in a jar of lentils I had leftover from an epic legume shoot for The New York Times with Sarah, I found this recipe. I mashed the two together, and it was love at first bite. A friend came by for a bowl, and though I swore up and down it was vegetarian, she didn’t believe me – she kept insisting I’d used meat in the broth from all those earthy flavors.
Top a bowl with a squeeze of lime juice to add a tangy counterpoint to the tomatoey broth, some crunchy tortilla strips, a handful of cilantro, a crumble of salty cotija cheese, and you have yourself a meal in a bowl.
Scope out the other bowl-licious offerings down below. Thanks for reading!
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons toasted cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (more or less depending on saltiness of vegetable stock)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) tomato paste
- 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced
- 2 medium-sized jewel or garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into a large dice
- 1 cup (200 g) French green lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
- 4 cups (1 liter) water
- 1 tablespoon chipotle puree (more if you like; or 1-2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped)
- 14 ounces (415 ml) canned diced tomatoes
- 4-6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, halved and cut into strips
- 2-4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
- 4 ounces cotija or queso fresco, crumbled
- 1-2 limes, cut into wedges
- avocado chunks (optional)
- sour cream (optional)
- In a large, heavy soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Work in the tomato paste, then add the carrots, lentils, stock, water, chipotle, and tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, partially covered, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender but still holding a shape, 30-40 minutes. Taste, adding more salt or chipotle if you like.
- To make the tortilla strips, heat a thin layer of oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add enough tortilla strips to fit in a single layer, and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until golden and crisp, 2-3 minutes. Remove and let drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips and oil.
- Serve bowls of soup topped with a good squeeze of lime, a nest of tortilla strips, and a bit of cilantro and cotija (and avocado and sour cream, if you like). The soup keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
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